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Equal Rights

When I was finishing college, I took a course in advertising as part of the sociology curriculum.  Living 40 miles from the big ad agencies of the Big Apple, I’d considered advertising as a career. 

The course included reading The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard. It is about how we are subconsciously seduced to buy something by hidden associations, such as the Marlboro man and what he represented. Obviously that was aimed at males. Anyhow, I still like to analyze ads, and was shocked, shocked I tell you, to see the recent TV ad for Gold Bond Intensive Hand Cream. The verbal and pictorial message was that a woman’s hands age with the rest of her and her hands are always exposed. Aged hands define her chronological status, and in our society, looking old ain’t looking good. So ladies, slather on some of this stuff and people (like eligible men) will think you’re a cheerleader.

This was not what I found shocking. The shocking part was that 45 or more years after the women’s rights movement for equality with men, there was no mention of that equality in the ad. As an aged male I found it disturbing that those of my gender were not included. Do not our masculine hands portray our longevity? Are women and men no longer equal? Again?

In the 1970s I was team-teaching a sociology course at Edmonds Community College with a woman who became my closest platonic friend. (As she took her own life some years later in a Wenatchee motel I will not disclose her name. I will refer to her as Penelope. You would not have known her.)

Penelope was an activist for equal human rights, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. She insisted one time that I accompany her to a women’s rights demonstration march in Seattle. I was not too keen on clomping around with a banner or sign but said I would go with her just to see what it was like. I found it so enjoyable, I even took part, sans banners and signs, in two gay rights boulevard convocations. So you can see that I am a believer in equality and that extends to advertising.

I recognize that certain things for sale are by nature (no pun) gender exclusive. Few if any men would have any interest or demand equality in ads for menstrual products - - -(Hmm, MENstrual?) and  “Erection lasting more than four hours” as male potency pills warn against as a possible side effect. (Just so you know, if this happens, the guy is supposed to call his doctor right away. It would usually occur, I should think, at a time when the doctor of either sex may be engaged in the pursuit that causes the malfunction and that doctor may not answer the phone.)

So do take a look at your hands, women and men both. If they do not satisfy you because they look old, or are cosmetically incorrect, get a fix with Gold Bond and see if it works. Or join the next equal rights demonstration and burn your hand cream in protest.


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